Subject: News Analysis: High Stakes for Risk-taker Wiranto

Straits Times [Singapore] Feb 16, 2000

High stakes for risk-taker Wiranto

With the odds stacked against the four-star general, the next three to six months will be crucial in determining his fate



JAKARTA -- There is a certain steely calmness about General Wiranto that can be unnerving if one were his opponent.

You never know if he is going to get that faraway look in his eye as he launches grimly into a set piece, or break into a charming smile and tell you to drink your tea.

But then the career soldier who has just seen his life vocation come to a crashing end is a bridge player who confides he likes the card game because it hones risk-taking instincts, among other things.

The stakes for him now are high. Gamble wrong and he could end up behind bars for 15 years. Gamble right and he could still end up as President one day.

But, at what cost?

There are those, not necessarily his supporters, who will argue that his refusal to resign at President Abdurrahman Wahid's urging was the right thing to do.

Maintain your innocence, let him sack you and win over those exasperated by the President's style.

Not to mention Islamic groups throughout Java who see any attack on him as an attack against Islam.

These groups, whose genesis is murky but whose fanaticism is unflinching, are gung-ho to show the paramilitary groups of the President's Nahdlatul Ulama that they are not the only force around with rights to the Islamic banner.

Gen Wiranto, who once used such groups to help counter student demonstrators in November 1998, thus securing Dr B.J. Habibie's fragile presidency, might not approve of their stirring up unrest in the belief it will help him strike a deal with President Abdurrahman.

But there are enough politicians who might reckon fomenting unrest is just the ticket to take the President out via a no-confidence vote.

Certainly a lot of blood will have to be shed before that day ever comes.

And there is no reason as yet to believe that Gen Wiranto, whose track record is of cautious constitutionalism will allow the country to burn in his name.

But even within a chastened military (TNI), there will be hotheads who will not accept what they see as his political lynching. Just how many he can rely on is not clear.

Mr Abdurrahman's aides said the President can count on a third of existing army generals, but that number can only grow when Gen Wiranto retires on March 31 and the choice for Wiranto loyalists is to switch sides or be fired.

The President has promised the general a pardon if he is ever convicted, but there are many who would question his word these days.

And even then, there will be others who wonder if amnesty is there for them if the truth ever emerged on Aceh, or even older wounds.

The trial of Gen Wiranto for crimes against humanity will be a watershed in a country which, Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman once lamented, tends to do things half-way, "glossing over or sweeping under the carpet" inconvenient truths.

How strong is the case against Gen Wiranto?

It is hard to prove he planned and ordered East Timor's destruction because up till two weeks before the Aug 31 referendum, his intelligence advisers were saying pro-integration forces would win, 70 to 30.

So there was no need for a contingency plan.

Only 48 hours before the vote did the reality emerge -- Indonesia would lose, but narrowly. Of course, the truth was that pro-independence fever touched 80 per cent of the electorate.

As TNI chief, the general should have foreseen there would be violence; its history almost ordains it, never mind any active move by the TNI. But there was no political will there either to take preventive measures.

Still to assuage world conscience, someone has to pay for not preventing the rapes, killings and arson.

And despite his appeal to the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam -- where no US commander was ever charged -- he can be indicted under a new international human-rights law: Failure to "take all necessary and reasonable measures within his power to prevent or repress" crimes against humanity.

The only defence available: I did not have effective command of my troops.

Not the most palatable epitaph for a proud Javanese general with aspirations to even higher office.

But of course, he will not have to go through any trial if he and his supporters can scuttle a new Indonesian human-rights bill that would provide the penalty for such crimes of omission -- a maximum jail term of 15 years.

And even if Indonesian law cannot catch up with him, he will be sentenced to house arrest of a different kind.

He will never be able to travel without fear of international arrest warrants or extradition requests from a country determined to try him.

With such odds stacked against him, would a four-star general simply sit back? Or would the man who has two stuffed Sumatran tigers guarding his front door reckon he can ride the tiger now and dismount later? The next three to six months will be crucial.

AFP, Feb 16, 2000

General hits out at military officers

JAKARTA -- Former Indonesian armed forces General Wiranto yesterday hit out at military officers close to President Abdurrahman Wahid and hinted they might have influenced the President's decision to drop him from the Cabinet.

In an interview with a Jakarta radio station, Gen Wiranto warned military officers close to the President to stop "whispering" to the President, the state Antara news agency reported.

Gen Wiranto, who may face charges over his role in East Timor, warned the "whisperers" that sooner or later their identity will be revealed. He did not elaborate.

Controversy has surrounded several of Mr Abdurrahman's statements made during a 16-day standoff with Gen Wiranto, who had insisted he should not be suspended on the basis unless legally found guilty.

Some newspapers had suggested that the statements, some of them concerning meetings of generals -- with the implication that a military coup could be in the offing -- were based on "whispers" from some of the President's aides.

Apparently irked by calls by some of his juniors for his resignation after Mr Abdurrahman called on him to quit, Gen Wiranto on Monday described the officers as not "well-groomed".

"I'm still an active four-star general but there's this active two-star general who always criticises and censures me in public,'' he said. "The attitude is not in line with the officers' code of ethics."

He was irritated by Major-Gen Agus Wirahadikusumah's comments on Sunday that he should resign and pursue his political ambitions by joining the Golkar party. -- AFP

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